Most of us accept that the game of life is a competition. We accept that it is played according to a certain set of rules that are not necessarily observed by everyone playing in the competition. We accept that it is by competing against others that we improve ourselves. Competition, we believe, is the natural way of the universe – the survival of the fittest idea surely means that if you’re not good enough you’re going to get beaten to the finish by someone who is faster, smarter or fitter than you are.
We accept that business is about competition. We compete with other suppliers of similar products or services to ours to ensure that we sell more than they do so that we can be bigger, better, more successful.
Benjamin Zander, Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, in his book The Art of Possibility suggests that there is another way to view our participation in the game of life other than to see it as a competition.
He says that when we treat it as a competition, we are confronted with success or failure like the two sides of one coin. Our defining purpose is then motivated by a drive to be successful and a fear of failure, both of which are a major cause of anxiety, stress and tension in one’s life.
Zander suggests that we invent another game to play which doesn’t have someone winning and someone losing. That game he calls “I am a contribution”. In this game, we see ourselves in terms of possibility and look at life in terms of what we can contribute rather than compete with others.
When we do this, Zander points out, we discover that we have more than enough energy to give of ourselves to the world. He says it’s like plugging into an electricity socket which continues to deliver power while we are plugged in.
How do you view your life? Do you see yourself as needing to compete with others for what you believe is an ever decreasing piece of the pie, or do you consider yourself to be a unique contribution to the world?
When we start to live as a contribution, we start to think in terms of what we’ve got to give rather than in terms of what we want to get.
If you ask most people if they see themselves as givers or grabbers, 99% of people will answer that they see themselves as givers. That may be so in terms of what they say but in terms of what they do – how they act – nothing could be further from the truth. Do a test on yourself. As honestly as possible, try to assess your actions throughout the course of a day in terms of giving or grabbing.
If you find that it’s been more about you getting than giving, that answers your question. You are more of a competition than a contribution. In a competition, someone has to win and someone has to lose. That means, if I have something, you don’t have it, and vice versa.
When you live as a contribution, you’re quite happy to give to others of your time, love, expertise, skill, money or whatever it is you wish to contribute. Remember, though, you only need to give of what you have, not of something you don’t have.
When more people start to be a contribution rather than a competition, the potential to change the world for the better increases exponentially.
Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and a professional speaker. He assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery so that they can live and lead with greatness.